Thai cave rescue boys promise to be 'good boys' as they mourn diver who died helping to save them

Alina Polianskaya

The young football team rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand have paid tribute to the former Navy Seal who died during the mission.

The 12 boys and their coach were told of what happened to Saman Kunan on Saturday after spending a few days recovering.

Doctors monitoring the Wild Boars football team decided they were finally well enough to hear the news, though many of the boys were left in tears after learning of his sacrifice.

The elite diver died on 6 July after losing consciousness while delivering air tanks, officials have said.

The boys held a minute’s silence for him and were pictured standing around an image of him, at the Chiang Rai Prachanukroh hospital.

The 11 to 16-year-olds also wrote messages thanking the volunteer diver, who has been named a hero nationwide, for his efforts.

Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, permanent secretary at the health ministry said in a statement: “All cried and expressed their condolences by writing messages on a drawing of Lieutenant Commander Saman and observed one minute of silence for him."

"They also thanked him and promised to be good boys," the health ministry added.

Although they had been in invited to watch the football World Cup final on Sunday, they had to decline on medical grounds and watched a recording of the match between France and Croatia instead.

The boys appear to be making good recoveries according to health authorities but they will be monitored for any impact on their health, both physical and mental, as signs of psychological distress could appear at a later date.

Experts have advised the boys not to speak to the media in case giving interviews triggers a post-traumatic stress reaction.

They are set to leave the hospital on Thursday, according to the Health Ministry.

The boys and their coach were rescued from the Tham Luang cave complex after heavy rain trapped them inside.

The young football team and their 25-year-old coach had been in the cave for nine days when British divers discovered them huddled on a ledge.

They were eventually rescued by a team of around 100 divers as well as volunteers as part of a huge and precarious international rescue mission, racing against time as more heavy rain was expected.

They were evacuated from the cave over a period of three days by a large team and were all out by 10 July. The boys was part-sedated and transported on special stretchers through the network of passages.

Some have expressed surprise that the former Navy Seal was the only casualty of the risky rescue mission.

Tributes have been coming in for the 38-year-old, who had retired from the military in 2006. He had also worked for the Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok and was a triathlete as well as a diver.

His widow told the BBC: "He's been praised as a hero because of who he was. He loved helping others, doing charity work and getting things done."

The cave in the Chiang Rai region has been closed off, and over 4,000 volunteers have been helping with a major clean up operation following the rescue.

Authorities will reopen it as a tourist attraction at a later date.

Agencies contributed to this report.